Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Milestone Penetration Achieved By Durham’s Overarching Brand

In a little over four short years, the signature for Durham’s overarching brand, “Durham – Where Great Things Happen” has reached 92% penetration with its most important audience, residents of the Bull City, according to an early finding from the annual, scientific State of Durham’s Image survey.durham_logo-771812

To put that in perspective, in the first year of measurement, 37% of residents recognized the signature.  Now after its fourth year, that percentage alone is exceeded by just those who feel “strongly” about recognizing the signature.

Even with residential turn-over and significant newcomer arrivals during this span, the percentage undecided has shrunk from 35% to 7.5% and those with no recognition has dipped below 1%.

That level of rapid penetration is exceptional, especially by an overarching brand signature for an entire community, but some of you may be wondering why recognition by an internal audience is significant.  Here are three reasons:

  • An all-encompassing brand must be embraced, first and foremost, by those most intimate with the community’s personality.


  • Resident recognition also means they are more likely to use it and/or reinforce it with external audiences such as newcomers, relocating executives and entrepreneurs, students, businesses, commuters and visitors.


  • Resident recognition of the signature means it is embedded as a measure of both “reasons to believe” and as a benchmark as the community continues to evolve.

No amount of formal presentation of the brand and signature to external audiences, such as promotion,  can  compensate if it doesn’t first resonate with internal stakeholders.

Who’s responsible?  Of course, the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau, as the community’s marketing agency, is responsible for incorporating it in all community materials but also facilitating it through other messengers.  Experts are giving DCVB’s performance an A+ as a “best practice.”

However, in my opinion, the key to the remarkable success of Durham’s overarching brand is due to the widespread adoption and incorporation of the signature by almost 700 Durham-based businesses, organizations and messengers.  I’ve never seen anything close to this during my 40 years in the branding and marketing of communities.

Even very new messengers like Bull City Forward have been quick to incorporate elements of Durham’s overarching brand with their own.  Puzzling though, is the apparent slowness or reticence by one or two that one might think would have caught on from the start, but they will come along eventually.

The City demonstrated its astute grasp of branding recently by using the overarching Durham brand signature on its Bull City Connector, which involves numerous other partners, rather than using just the City’s logo or DATA’s or Downtown’s which is just one of many areas served by the Connector.

Of course, the overarching brand is much more than a signature and was distilled over two years of community input and research because it represents Durham’s personality as an umbrella in all respects, as a place to live and work, to do business and educate, to visit and innovate, to worship and create, to raise a family or retire etc.

Historically, Durham has been home to some very famous brands.  The Durham of today’s willingness and ability to distill and and embrace an overarching brand for the community would win a proud nod of approval from the pioneers of historic brands such as Bull Durham, Lucky Strike and Chesterfield…

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